Facing forward

stained glass leaded windowThere are things I just don’t like facing. I shut down. I tumble the discomfort into a jumble of words and throw the words out, lose them in the chaos.

I just had a party, a happy, boisterous noise of 15 people. When everyone left I was alone. Loneliness loomed. At first there was panic. But I sank down into it and it softened. Ultimately everything comes to an end. To believe otherwise is delusion. But to discount the value of the illusion of endlessness is also foolish. It is important to acknowledge the sadness of endings.

We are human, animal, flesh and blood. We need petting, barking, sniffing, munching, along with all the rich variety of human emotions attached to our bodies. Yet we forget this fact more often than we realize. There is so much activity that occupies us on a daily basis that we don’t often need to face our frailty, our mortal coil. Even our spiritual lessons distract us from the naked truth. Subscribing to the illusion of permanence causes suffering.

Yet beyond that truth, or perhaps encasing it, is the brute reality that we have no choice but to involve ourselves in the lives of others, as much as we can. Even though doing so causes us the suffering of endings. This paradox both intrigues me and shakes me to the core. Regardless of the “meaning” of life, it’s obvious we must live it somehow, embrace some belief. To do otherwise is suicide, unless you are meant to become an extreme ascetic. (or a lost puppy, like me)

Even within the company of another we are ultimately alone, a separate mass of nerves. I’ve never been comfortable with that idea, but none of my experience has proved otherwise. My own reality, my body, mind and unique path doesn’t permit full convergence with another person. At least not yet, not in this life. Sharing with others my deepest emotions, my deepest understanding, my greatest epiphanies, offers momentary connection, then passes like an orgasm. All we ultimately have is the illusion, frame by frame, to use in some cut and paste, pointillist storyline of meaning.

So the party is over. The joyous roar which filled the void has ended. I cradle the sweet sadness of being alone.

I watch. I see the curve, the rise and fall of those waves. Ultimately it’s the waves, rather than the epiphanies, which comfort me. It’s like breathing. I sigh and turn the page.


neck lineFor the past few years I’ve been bothered by pain behind my left shoulder. It often nagged me. Yoga practice helped me relax but hurt the shoulder, rather both shoulders. Though yoga didn’t tell me to ignore the pain. That was all me. It started down the back of my head on the left side and continued beneath my left shoulder blade. It felt like something needed to be cracked. Like there was an electrical short somewhere in the wiring. Tingling and burning. Persistent.

I finally decided to face the problem and get help. I had seen my mother’s chiropractor a couple of times and was impressed with the results, even if only temporary. I got a coupon for the first visit to a well known clinic. I am suspicious of chiropractors, believing I should do on my own whatever they might do for me. I inherited a “Pull up your own bootstraps” kind of attitude from my father.

The coupon included a consultation and x-rays and the followup discussion from the tests. As usual with any exam, I assume the results will show my healthy condition.

Seeing the x-ray photos stunned me. Even before the doctor spoke, I knew. I had no curve in my neck. In fact I had some reverse curve. This was a little scary. At first I thought the cause of the deformation was my new tendency to try to lift the back of my head up, a practice which I also learned in yoga. But to yoga’s credit the advice implies to lift gently, not hang yourself, as I was doing.

The cause was not mysterious, though. The main culprit is my posture from playing clarinet 30 hours a week for 30 years. Despite my attempts to educate myself over the years about my playing posture, I didn’t have enough information to notice how I craned my neck and torso forward when playing. Habits.

Another reason for my poor posture is that I’m tall. Most people are shorter than me. So I often slouch to talk to people. Habits.

Another persistent cause is gravity. As I age, gravity weighs more.

While I analyzed my posture throughout the day I began to notice another, deeper cause for my neck problem.


At some point in my life I lost a lot of self-esteem. I think we all suffer those blows. Perhaps some of us are more prone than others. Self-esteem is a kind of love. Trust in yourself is both vital and fragile. It’s not just a blanket of forgiveness, but a compassionate look at both your strengths and failures.

Looking down is not only an effect of low self-esteem. I think it can become a down facing attitude, a negative outlook. I think it can aggravate a low self image. It can become a self-sustaining and chronic condition, both physical and emotional.

Just knowing or thinking about these things helps me begin to heal.

The chiropractor’s touch is also healing. I think the one I’m seeing is gifted. Not only does he know where things need to go back to, how much they’re out, and why they got that way. But he touches my skin directly. There it is again, the importance of touch.

These treatments will help me a great deal. But I also need to start seeing the whole picture. I need to notice on a second to second basis how balanced my body is. And the angle of my attitude.

A good attitude, both physical and emotional, is the beginning of healing.



Into the emptiness
which I fill with my heart
I give myself up
to the inevitable
essence of oblivion
and exhale as many breaths
full of peace as possible

I got that photo from The Universe in Color, a magnificient collection of stunning photos by Robert Gendler. Go check it out!

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Ode to a Quilt

I’ve collected quilts for about 5 years. My dear friend Joe is my dealer. Sometimes I playfully refer to him as my drug dealer, because quilts are so addictive.

All the quilts I own are antiques, dating from 1830’s to the 1950’s. Most of them date from the end of the 19th century. Think about it; Unique folk art over a hundred years old with amazing artistic design hangs all over my house. To boot, they were made by women who lived during times when women got little credit for anything but baby making and housework.

The utilitarian nature of quilts adds to their richness. They are made to be used. Their makers didn’t need to trouble themselves with design. But they did. So the artistic inspiration embodied in these quilts is pure. These are noncommercial works of folk art. Their beauty was purely for the pleasure of the maker. Although pleasure is not the best word to describe this labor.

I am quite sure these women did not have time to spare for pleasure. Life in the late 1800’s was not luxurious for most people. I can image a women with a house full of children, working long hours cooking, cleaning, making clothes, washing clothes by hand, tending to a kitchen garden, perhaps tending to farm animals, and many other tasks, before having some time to hand stitch parts of a quilt.

Yet they did it. Each quilt contains that history, that labor, and those women’s hard-won “flights of fancy” in its cloth. The result is more than folkart. An unmistakable spiritual quality resonates in many of them.

1890's logcabin, light and dark

Ode to a Quilt

Textile Bach-
stitched counterpoint
structured freedom.
Alert before you
rising up to your call,
yet yielding supplely
with a ripple.

Nexus of particulars:
a culture
a function
a person
A “herstory”
carved out of scraps, recycled
moments sewn together
with devotion and care
by chapped, aching hands
under dull candle’s sight.

Subtle joyous rapture
corralled by tradition.
As much a mirror
(reflection of a world within)
as a style of one.
(you with no sin)
Gravitas of conviction.
Swirling with
primal weight, hypnotic concision.
She recedes silently
with days fading light
then, later
twinkles nocturnally
with comfort and warmth.
See her yarn?
Familiar, now new.

such rich modesty
such crystalline grace
a percolating prism of possibility.

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